Christianity is ancient, not modern; may this never change

One of the biggest movements in Christianity across conservative, liberal, and even emergent lines is the desire to be culturally relevant. The conservatives tend to desire relevancy through their “worship” (music) and style of message. The liberals and emergents tend to desire relevancy in their beliefs. In fact, the only difference between a liberal and an emergent is a liberal will say, “Well the majority believes this, so…” whereas the emergent will still think his belief is in the minority (when it’s actually part of the trend).

Regardless, I see this desire for relevancy to be troubling. It betrays a desire to be accepted by the world rather than by God. What is more troubling is that it betrays a lack of knowledge concerning the early Church and what she faced. If we understood our history there is a chance we could understand how to deal with the modern age.

I’m currently reading through Justin Martyr’s First Apology (defense) and the first part of the defense is explaining that what has been said about Christianity is not true. In other words, much of the persecution against Christians was not due to their belief in Christ, but to the misconceptions about Christians. Rather than attempting to become culturally relevant and adapt to the culture so as to avoid persecution, the Christians attempted to explain the misconceptions and live in a way that pleased God. If the culture saw it and accepted it, then great. If not, then the Christians welcomed persecution.

In our modern age we attempt to be relevant to the culture rather than making the culture relevant to us. I don’t mean through violence, but through actions. When we attempt to ape the methods of the world, we water down a very potent and counter-cultural Gospel. The amazing works of the Gospel are no longer the works of the Holy Spirit that cannot be explained or copied, but rather successful business strategies that you too can copy in 7 easy steps for $19.99.  We become obsessed over mega-churches because they provide a good business model that allow for the church to function as a well-oiled machine. We prefer the best music to attract the largest crowds and ignore the lyrics or what actually aids in the worship of God. In all, Christianity, in an attempt to ape the culture, becomes less than the culture and not worthy of its former stature. The medium is changed to reach the largest number of people, but the medium overrides the message. While the medium must change, it cannot override the message.

Even worse than the above is when we begin to ape the message of the world. What was formerly a sin is now no longer a sin. Suddenly, we begin to find new ways to interpret the Bible and say, “Well, how this was meant no longer applies to today.” It’s a very sophisticated way of saying, “We know better than they did.” These interpretations have no tradition behind them. No one has ever interpreted the scriptures in this way, not even the earliest Christians, but we somehow think we have a better perspective with our modern enlightened minds than these Neanderthal ancients did. We change the importance of Christianity – it’s not important that Jesus was God, it’s important that you have a relationship with Him. It’s not important that Christ is the only way to the Father, it’s important that you find your own way. The Christianity that adopts the ways of the world ends up being nothing like Christianity.

Christianity is an ancient religion founded in ancient beliefs. When people say that I get my beliefs from a 2,000 year old book and a 2,000 year old belief, I am quick to correct them and say parts of the book are over 3,000 years old and the belief is even older.  We should take pride in the ancient beliefs because having survived for thousands of years, they have shown their resilience to change. More importantly, we should take pride in these ancient beliefs because they are founded in the Eternal and come from a timeless Source who is not subject to change. Christianity is an ancient faith and not modern, we must never forget this or attempt to change this.


4 thoughts on “Christianity is ancient, not modern; may this never change

  1. “We change the importance of Christianity – it’s not important that Jesus was God, it’s important that you have a relationship with Him.”

    Good observation. I was recently rather deeply discussing a theological matter of great importance to ecclesiology with a coworker when my boss chimed in, (it appeared quite haughty) “Its not about religion, its about relationship… with Jesus.” To which I quipped under my breath, “Well, the devil has a relationship with Jesus.”

    This kind of belief seems to be similar to the “its not about the destination, its about the journey.” beliefs, which are pretty obviously self-negating since the journey would not even exist without the destination. If only people had read their Schaeffer, we would not be in this backwards mess.

    Do you propose a solution or are you merely offering observation? Do you suggest we adopt the ways of the ancient saints or was that part just to get us thinking?

    1. Why not both? We should have the ideal of Christianity (lived out in the ways of the saints) and we should strive to live as they did in their own culture. This is especially pertinent for American Christians since our culture almost mirrors the culture that surrounded early Christians. At the same time, it’s also to get us thinking about how to relate to our culture without compromise. 300 years ago, good arguments sufficed for establishing Christianity as a legitimate belief. Now, we need good lives and good arguments, which is exactly what the early Church offered.

  2. Very well done! You hit it at the heart of today’s culture. I recently moved to a new state for my first job out of college and finding a new church was harder than ever. Unfortunately one place I came to know was more of a cult dependent on other writers and not the Holy Spirit and the standard Bible (not their version). The next 2 other places I went focused way too much on the worship. I felt like I was at a concert or in my unsaved days (18 then now 23), the nightclubs. I really don’t need the lights to be turned off all the way to ‘get in the mood.’ It’s scary, and I think if we hold the Truth of God in us, the Holy Spirit, why live in darkness? The brothers I met had no reverence for the Lord, they would just role out of bed in flip flops and gym shorts. The sisters had no zeal for the Lord, still going to bars and skipping service for a day on a boat drinking with friends. The Word not mentioned cannot penetrate! Just my rambling thoughts… I finally found a stable church and will always put to test what is spoken, so that I may prove steadfast and strong in my faith.

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